BARBADOS became a republic on November 30, 2021, exactly 55 years after it was declared independent from England.

The country made its break from the monarchy at a time when monuments commemorating colonisers were relocated, uprooted, or defaced across the world, within an era of calls reparations for African enslavement and colonialism, and during the Covid-19 pandemic which led to death and other worldwide economic and social issues.

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Under the leadership of Barbados’ first female prime minister, Mia Amor Mottley, Barbados proceeded to republican status without a referendum and before implementing constitutional reform.

Prime Minister Mottley (below) was able to achieve this because a referendum was not required and she had a two-thirds majority in the Parliament of Barbados. By declaring Barbados a republic, Mottley stated to the world that the country would take control of its own destiny.

The National: Mia Mottley speaking at Cop26

The implementation of a Barbadian head of state, the first being President Dame Sandra Mason, is symbolic of the country’s independence and sovereignty.

As a self-governing nation since 1966, major adjustments were not needed. But some changes were made. The Royal Barbados Police Force was renamed the Barbados Police Service, and national honours created including the Freedom of Barbados awards (formerly knighthoods) and Order of the Republic (formerly Companion of Honour). However, vestiges of colonial rule remain, such as the names of streets, buildings, parks which are part of the colonial past and the island’s heritage.

Breaking free from the monarchy does not affect aspects of relations between Barbados and Britain. There are still various agreements and treaties between the two countries, Barbados is still a favoured tourist destination for the British, the legislative model of Parliament has continued, and even sporting relations through cricket. Of course, Barbados remains part of the Commonwealth.

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There was some debate concerning Barbados becoming a republic without first changing the constitution or having a referendum. But since becoming a republic, Barbados has appointed a Constitutional Reform Commission to oversee the development and enactment of a new constitution through consultation with citizens and organisations. This includes outreach such as public meetings on matters to be included in the Barbados Constitution, public lectures, and community sensitisation sessions.

Barbados’s move to a republican status created quite a stir in the region, with some heads of government in the Caribbean signaling their intention to follow suit. Arguably, this reaction was not the same when Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica did so respectively in 1970, 1976 and 1978. Perhaps this has to do with the timing of this transition, and the changing worldview on the relevance of the monarchy in former colonies which were connected to each other through a painful past of African enslavement and colonialism.

During the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee tour in the Caribbean in 2022, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, and Jamaica expressed an interest in cutting ties with the British crown and made calls for reparations.

In 2022, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, stated that a referendum would be held within three years to determine whether the country would become a republic.

Jamaica has accelerated its plans to become a republic. It is possible that the country could hold a referendum as soon as next year, or it would be held simultaneously with general elections scheduled for 2025. If Jamaica is successful, it would be the first territorial loss under King Charles III.

As a new King’s coronation takes place, there are questions as to whether he can inspire the same devotion and respect as Queen Elizabeth did for 70 years, will the number of realms diminish, and will the Commonwealth prosper under his leadership?